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Erica Bauermeister – The Lost Art of Mixing

February 11, 2013

LibraryThing Early Reviewers4. The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister (2013)

Read my review of book:
1. The School of Essential Ingredients

Length: 276 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Started: 26 January 2013
Finished: 28 January 2013

Where did it come from? From LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.
Why do I have it? I was surprised by how much I loved Bauermeister’s first two books, so of course I was going to read this one as well.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 20 November 2012.

The celebrations
you make for yourselves can be
the most important.

Summary: In this sequel to The School of Essential Ingredients, Lillian’s recent round of cooking classes may have finished, but her restaurant is still bringing people together. Al, her accountant, lives for numbers and order, but is learning to appreciate the more subtle pleasures of celebrating life, although that celebration does not filter through to his strained relationship with his wife. Chloe is a young chef at the restaurant, still aching from her recent heartbreak but slowly learning to trust her heart. Isabelle, Chloe’s housemate, is slowly falling prey to Alzheimer’s, but still manages to see the lives around her with a startling clarity. And Lillian herself is dealing with a major development in her life, one that she thought she’d left behind. As their stories intersect at and around the restaurant, these disparate people find themselves supporting and balancing each other, blending together like an ingredients in a recipe, like a family that they find and build for themselves.

Review: Erica Bauermeister’s books are not the sort of books I would normally seek out, nor the sort that I would expect to enjoy based on the description. As I said in my review of Joy for Beginners, books about ordinary people in ordinary relationships leading ordinary lives is not my usual cup of tea. But Bauermeister has a way of making the very ordinariness of the lives of her characters and turning it into something worth cherishing, something worth celebrating. A running thread in this book is Al’s discovery of a book of rituals, which are a way of making celebrations out of daily life. I thought that was a nice inclusion, because it neatly encompasses what I think make Bauermeister’s books so special: they encourage us to savor life, whether in a bite of food or another person. Her prose has an astonishing way of making everything bright and vivid, and of really invoking all of the senses that are not necessarily always involved in reading a novel.

However, while there were a lot of elements and moments that I loved in this book, there were things that I missed as well, with the result that I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as Bauermeister’s first two. Primarily, I missed the amazing focus on food and cooking that anchored The School of Essential Ingredients. Bauermeister writes that so well, and while there were bits about cooking in this story, they were much less central, which was somewhat disappointing, given that this story revolves around a restaurant. I also didn’t feel the same emotional connection to her characters this time around, although whether that’s due to my own state of mind or something about the stories Bauermeister was choosing to tell, I couldn’t say.

But even so, I really enjoyed this book. It’s somehow light and warm and comforting all at the same time, and definitely an enjoyable read. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This book could stand alone relatively well (considering how long it’s been since I read the first one and how many of the details I’d forgotten), but it’s richer for knowing the backstory. I’d recommend Bauermeister’s books in general to anyone who’s looking for a heart-warming and satisfying read.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Book Addiction, Book Chatter, Leafing Through Life and many more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
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First Line: Lillian stood at the restaurant kitchen counter, considering the empty expanse in front of her.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2013 11:15 am

    Thanks for the shout out. I missed the food focus as well. I also missed Lillian. She definitely took a back seat in this one.

    • February 17, 2013 7:51 pm

      Ti – It’s true, she did; I don’t remember the details of her story in the first book that well, but given her storyline in this one, I would have expected her to play more of a role.

  2. February 11, 2013 3:48 pm

    It sounds like this isn’t as good as Bauermeister’s previous books, but like it’s still worth reading. I’m looking forward to it.

    • February 17, 2013 7:52 pm

      Kathy – I don’t know that it’s “not as good as”, but more like “I didn’t enjoy it as much.” It’s entirely likely that it’s much more to do with my tastes and my mood as it did with the book itself. I hope you wind up loving it!

  3. February 12, 2013 10:03 am

    I love Bauermeister, her stories are such a comfort!

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